“When she smiles, the lines in her face become epic narratives that trace the stories of generations that no book can replace.” Curtis Tyrone Jones
It’s dusk, I’m rocking two naked grand babies in an over sized nursery room rocker, they are not only identical, but perfectly replicate my memories of motherhood, including the exhaustion, cessation, and ritualistic release of our daily burdens.
Not that you asked, but here’s what I’ve been thinking.
I’m sensitive, hyper sensitive if you will, but that’s the way I came into the world, and there is not much I can do about it. This sensitivity I speak of is a double edged sword, because not only am I sensitive in the common way, one who overindulges her feelings, wears them on her sleeve so to speak, but also inversely, which includes the rather nettlesome ability to feel the emotional energy of others. Most people come wired this way, some seem more cognizant then others, but that’s irrelevant.
Have you ever run your hand over a prickly cactus, and for days are tortured by the tiny nettles that become embedded in your skin, invisible to the eye, but distressing nonetheless. That outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis, as in you’re getting under my skin dude, and I’m feeling nettled! It’s as aggravating as it is painful, and unless you’re prepared to pluck them out one by one with a magnifying glass, you’ll have to remember which cacti should be avoided, and which are harmless, same with people.
You know what I’m talking about? When you feel pricked by the tiny, sharp, poignant feelings of those around you, as if you were a human pin cushion, and the only way to survive these porcupinian encounters, is to retreat to a safe corner, and write.
Perhaps this is why stories have such unguent properties? They anoint, consecrate, possibly ordain our hallowed lives with an inviolable purpose, one that not only sustains us, but those around us.
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called the Four Agreements and I think he nails the meddlesome game. Ruiz reminds us to be impeccable with our words, not to take anything personally, or make assumptions, and always do our best. In doing so we release our emotional cache, we become unencumbered, liberated, immunized from the sting of intuitive encounters. This is a skill, it’s learned behavior, over time it becomes a habit, which eventually informs our character. #LifeSkills
I’m a bit of a sloth emotionally, but progress is relative, and please try to resist calculating my operatic health, as I share a recent experience which tested my mettle. I took an early morning call from Julie, who asked me to accompany her to the elementary school this evening for the annual book fair, and ice cream social. Two of my favorite things, with three of my favorite granddaughters, you don’t have to ask me twice.
It starts at 5:30, so I drive straight to Julie’s from work, entering the kitchen with a gregarious hello, scrambling from child to child for kisses. This is when I notice all the seismic activity going on in the room, translation everyone is on a sugar low, highly sensitive, and plying for Mom’s attention.
Julie moves from one child to the next with the practiced grace of a prima ballerina, minus the tutu, soothing, calming, and nurturing, whereas I’m compelled to rummage through the refrigerator in search of cheese, peanut butter, or yogurt, anything that will alleviate this precipitous hunger? I also have the distinct feeling that I need to cry?
I’m doing my best to hold it together with these wigged out miniature humans, shoveling Cheez-Its dipped in peanut butter into their birdlike mouths, and by the grace of God when their deprived systems start to recover, I actually feel the atmosphere in the room begin to shift. We haven’t left the house and yet I’m exhausted. #empathicissues
In need of a sedative for my sensitivities I pour myself some blessed wine and find the search for matching shoes and socks slightly amusing.
The process of buckling all these kangaroos into the mini van is heroic. I’m just sayin.
We arrive at the school, scamper to join the line forming by the cafeteria door, where each of us is handed an empty bowl as we pass through the crowded portal. There are two choices, chocolate, or vanilla ice cream. Maybe a little of both? Who can deny adorable two-year olds and their grey haired Grammie? Volunteers, that’s who, with no remorse, or leniency. Move along, move along.
Spread out on the cafeteria tables are large bowls of sprinkles, cans of whip cream, and containers of chocolate sauce. Who thought this was a good idea? I don’t mean to tattle but some of the unsupervised children have weaponized these condiments, spraying unsuspecting souls with whipping cream, then sprinkling them with candy confetti. It’s like being tossed in a paint ball war with no barriers. I’m traumatized by the stickiness of it all but try not to take it personally, as Ruiz warns “it’s not about you.”
I forget how children are in constant motion, it’s impossible to predict the calamity of encounters during these impromptu socials, someone (I’ll not mention names because I’m impeccable with my words) knocks over not only her own dish of ice cream, but fell into the bowl of her neighbor, somehow a spoon went flying, which I was able to grab midair, but this of course meant my hand is now covered with a viscous film. And yes my coat will need cleaning.
Julie’s handing out baby wipes as if they were the solution to all our problems (not that I’m making assumptions), the children seem ignorant as to their genuine purpose, which is extracting gunk from their person, they start wiping down the cafeteria tables Cinderella fashion, tossing the soiled clothes in the garbage, faces still covered in chocolate. I’m slightly appalled, but doing my best to act non-pulsed, and quite convincingly I might add.
With the chaos of the room bearing down on me (I’m sensitive), we decide to move our slimy entourage to the book fair, and out of the war zone.
I realize this event is dependent on the service of volunteers, but who decided to line the smallest of rooms imaginable with stacks of books, all within reach of children with severe ice cream hangovers, enabling them to grab, and hoard? You can only imagine the mayhem.
There is crying, raging tantrums, and pulling of hair but that’s just me (doing my best). Haggard parents, screaming children, “I want this, all of these, and I have to have the one with Elsa, please…….” I counted no less than twenty parents madly waving credit cards at the two volunteers, as if they were trying to surrender after a lengthy battle, I just want to retreat and lick my wounds.
Did I mention it’s smoldering hot in this little room, I’m stripping off layers of clothing as I work my way around the shacks of disarrayed books, trying to keep an eye on our malty crew. They are darting around like little minions on steroids, and then there’s Julie, calm as a hindu cow, reading through the intros of several books, serenely discerning what she wants to buy. Really?
“Julie, for the love of God, let’s get the hell out of here while there’s still time!” People are staring out me like I’m some kind of alarmist? I’m feeling so much desperation I can hardly breath and every Ruiz agreement went flying out the door.
For me this is akin to falling in a vat of cacti, and as I’m gathering nettles under my skin, I somehow managed to buy forty dollars worth of books?
Back at the house we work as a team, while she fries up some animal flesh, I prepare the tub. She feeds, I baptize, until a minor skirmish ensues over tub space. Isn’t that always the way? I remove the loudest culprits from the foe and shepherd, sopping wet, howling twins down the hall to their room, but they refuse to put on their Sophia undies, and unicorn pajamas. What can I do?
I’m remember the wisdom of Angeles Arrien’s, “when we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.” So I perform a rather enchanting rendition of the Hokey Pokey in front of the closet mirrors, and although my gig needs work, it garners some attention.
“You put your right arm in, you put your right arm out, you put your right arm in, and you shake it all about, you do the hokey pokey, and you turn your self around, that’s what it’s all about.” Clap, clap.
After three rounds of Hokey Pokey with naked two-year olds Grammie is dizzy. I fall into the rocker, silent, and open my arms, they climb into my lap, two soft pink, satiated, warm, bodies to embrace.
I feel the pace of the day begin to dissolve, heart rates calm, the silence acts as a soothing balm, my eyes feel heavy. Was it really decades ago when I was rocking my own babies to sleep? I feel their hearts beating as they rest against me, their worries begin to fade, unarticulated words tumble away, and the echoes of lonely sobs are soothed by the gentle rocking. I carry all of this inside of me, the burdens of my beloved, which over time becomes my pearl of great price.
As my hair continues to grey, I continue to search for the deeper meaning of life, but quite possibly it’s not in the thoughts and emotions that nettle our sensitive natures, maybe it’s when we allow a moment of silence to transform our emotions, a living poetry if you will, inviting the prose to gently engulf us, as we enter into the blessed rhythm of life.
I’m Living in the Gap, do me a favor, drop a few lines in the comments about what’s nettling you, I’d like to empathize.
- When I’m 80 and sitting in a rocking chair listening to the Rolling Stones, there is absolutely no way I’m going to feel old or forget my younger days. Patty Duke
I am a boring loner. I enjoy Friday nights at home in my rocking chair with no arms, rocking and relaxing. It’s not uncommon for Netflix to be involved. Records are a possibility, but most of it is spent in silence. Valerie June
Before this generation loses the wisdom, one advice – read books. Amit Kalantri,